The tradition bearer of the Finnish Kantle, Naselle, Washington can trace the love of kantele playing back five generations in his family.
His great-great grandmother, Kreeta Haapasalo, is one of Finland’s notable kantele matriarchs, a kantele-heroine, as she is often called.
Saari’s degree in music has helped him to develop outstanding skill in teaching himself to play kantele later in life. He is not only a recognized performer in demand, but also a well-respected and active teacher, who generously continues to share his kantele knowledge with numerous students around the country.
Saari has received a Washington state Governor’s Heritage Award for his work popularizing and teaching kantele. In 2006, Saari was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, the country’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. He is also a very productive composer of kantele music with over 2,400 pieces written.
In 2010, Dr. Arja Kastinen from Finland published 365 of Saari’s compositions in a collection called “Tune-a-Day.” Saari has recorded two CDs on the kantele. His latest CD called, “Vilhon Vintiltä” is mainly made-up of his own compositions.